What Is Your Life?

We were in Honduras during the last major election cycle, locked down and humbled by two back-to-back Hurricanes and a landslide that took everything but our lives and left us homeless in the third world.  It was a three-hour drive to the US Embassy if we wanted to vote.  Needless to say, we didn’t.  We just prayed. I’d never placed much hope in politics but 2020 marked the official end of Mat 16:6 and Mark 8:15 leaven in my life and surrender to the truth that it is God who changes times and seasons; he removes kings and sets up kings… Dan 2:21

When God Wants To Judge A Nation, He Gives Them Wicked Rulers.” -John Calvin-

I have friends from Marxian a.k.a. progressive parts of the USA who joke about our new residence in Appalachia. They imagine the locals here as toothless, stereotypical hillbillies instead of American archetypes like Davy Crocket.  The Godless snobbery and blatant deconstruction for which Marxist America is known is enough to tempt me to categorize myself as a Confederate. I’m kidding. Still, my flesh despises everything for which those on the left stand!! Meanwhile,

The cry of my soul mirrors that of Habakkuk.

O LORD, how long shall I cry for help, and you will not hear? Or cry to you “Violence!” and you will not save? Why do you make me see iniquity, and why do you idly look at wrong? Destruction and violence are before me; strife and contention arise. So the law is paralyzed, and justice never goes forth. For the wicked surround the righteous; so justice goes forth perverted. Hab 1:2-4

Davy Crocket was born just a few miles from our current home. While he had very little in the way of formal education he wore many hats in his life including frontiersman, trapper, farmer, soldier, and US congressman. He met his demise at the hands of Mexican soldiers at the Alamo. He became my categorical model of fearlessness, selflessness, risk-taking, and adventure to which I aspired.

Men like Davy Crockett defined the line between good and evil.

I remember pretending to die like Davy at the Alamo

My categories were simple. America was good. Anyone opposing America was bad. Killing bad people was good. If I represent America then by extension anyone opposing me was bad. Television programming reinforced this paradigm.

There’s a tale about Crockett conversing with one of his more sophisticated congressional peers from Massachusetts when a herd of Donkeys passed by. “Aren’t those your constituents Crocket? the Yankee asked. “Why yes,” Crocket replied.

“I believe they’re on their way to Massachusetts to teach school.”

I also aspired to be witty like Davy as he so clearly articulated how I felt growing up in what I now know to be pre-Marxian America. While it might seem that the Godless deconstruction surrounding us now is new, anyone familiar with things like the Frankfurt School, Postmodernism, and Critical Theory will know otherwise. Still, now that I live in the heart of what still might qualify as the America I once imagined, there’s a stirring in my flesh and soul to identify with the voices that cry,

Meanwhile, the still small voice of God within me echo’s the words of John Adams,

Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious People. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”

And the words of Jesus to Pontius Pilot,

“My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not of this world.” John 18:36

There’s no natural, let alone a political solution to what ails us as a nation.

Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in Spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. John 4:23

There is a point in the life of every mature believer where a line must be drawn between the carnality of the flesh, the mind, will, and emotions that comprise the soul and the regenerated spirit-man. It is the point where the truth of God’s word must supplant common sense and what appears to be an immutable fact.

It is a putting away of childish things we still hold as sacred in adulthood.

Today I understand that it was my childhood formations that compelled me to enter adulthood as a US Marine ready to kill whomever I was told to kill. My programmed tendency to choose a side in any conflict still lingers in the back of my mind even as it is renewed. Rom 12:1-2 My worldview remains framed by proverbial hills for which, and upon which, I am willing to die.

Now here I sit amidst another election cycle in the great Volunteer State of Tennessee. I am filled with Holy Spirit and acutely aware of my hypocrisy reflected in the mirror of God’s Word. My carnal flesh and soul driven by a hundred childish categorizations snarls and spits like Barabas in chains waiting to be chosen over Jesus by the crowd.

Barabas was a zealot.

Zealots were Jewish nationalists.

How easy it would be to unleash my inner Barabas and destroy my witness for Jesus in the name of protecting and preserving all that I call

“My life.”

It really got me thinking… 

Before I try to answer ethical questions related to the preservation of my life; shouldn’t I first examine my presuppositions regarding;

What is my Life?

I find it interesting that the Bible says more about what my life is not.

My life is not the world or anything in it.

Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 1 John 2:15

My life is not a human relationship.

If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Luke 14:26

My life is not something I should cling to.

For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. Mat 16:24-26

My life is not on earth.

For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. Col 3:3-4

My life is not MY identity.

For me to live is Christ. To die is gain. Phil 1:21

My life is not mine.

…You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body. 1 Cor 6:19-20

Whatever it is, my life is cryptic and in Christ Jesus.

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which HE loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace, you have been saved—and raised us up with HIM and seated us with HIM in the heavenly places IN Christ Jesus so that in the coming ages HE might show the immeasurable riches of HIS grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. Eph 2:4-7

If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. Col 3:1-4

Today’s hard red pill.

I wrote about Adam and Eve’s focus before and after the fall and the subsequent selfishness and self-centeredness that distort our identities in Pressure. Dietrich Bonhoeffer went a step further in his final work “Ethics”. He begins with the presupposition that “The knowledge of good and evil” not just evil itself, separated us from God.  The result of Genesis 3 was the self-centeredness that we call our “identity” today. It supplants God’s sovereignty. At the end of the day, “Christian ethics” is an oxymoron that makes us His enemy. All of our very best judgments about right and wrong, good and evil are the fruit of the original fall from grace. That those in Christ Jesus are a new creation 2 Cor 5:17 applies to the extent that we take our eyes off ourselves and focus on Him and Him alone.  Assuming Bonhoeffer is correct, the very part of us that categorizes new and old and so joyfully and exuberantly proclaims,

“I am a new creation!” is not the new creation.

It’s paradoxical but the unholy trinity of flesh otherwise known as”Me, Myself, and I” is the part that dies when I am born again.

I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. Galatians 2:20

Chew on that.

The root of the problem

“And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God.” Rev 12:10

“Accuse” is katēgoréō from which the English word category is derived.  While Adam was assigned the job of categorizing everything in the Garden, all of our post-fall categorizations are the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil. 

Turns out all of the righteous patriotic criteria and resulting categorizations formed in my childhood were from hell.

Who knew?

Still, my self-righteous carnality recoils at this.

Perhaps yours does too.

It only makes sense in the realm of spirit and truth to which all believers are called.

I’m pondering my own repentance here, not preaching down from a proverbial pulpit.

If I’m honest, there’s not a day that I don’t organize and view people, places, and things according to categories. Those familiar with cognitive science know that categories are foundational to language.

That’s a tree.  That’s a rock. Trees are plants. Rocks are not.

We categorize before we vote.

Aren’t you taking all of this a bit too far, Brian? We all have to function in a world of categories. Yes. But what if God meant exactly what He said, in Isaiah 55:8-9?

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

It might be worth considering, as we go about proclaiming God’s character, and plan, His will, and His thoughts about us and others in our daily lives. At the end of the day, everything we think we know might be wrong and we actually don’t have a clue about anything beyond the fact that

we desperately need Jesus.

Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD, and turn away from evil. It will be healing to your flesh and refreshment to your bones. Proverbs 3:5-8

The other day I told a younger brother that it seems that God’s purpose in our 30s and 40s is to generate enough proof of how little we understood by the time we are 50. The older I get, the more clearly I see how completely inept I am and how absurd it would be to even consider answering the question;  

What is your Life?

And while I have experienced what I assume to be His presence in manifold ways that my soul tries to interpret and my words articulate, all I can do that is worth doing at all is to ponder and recite God’s Word as it is written.

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant,  being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Philippians 2:5-11

I know in part and I prophesy in part. When the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, and I reasoned like a child. Now that I am a man, I must give my up childish ways. For now, I see in a mirror dimly but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.  1 Corinthians 13:9-12

What is my life?

God’s word says it is Jesus.

I cling to that.

His kingdom is NOT of this world.

MARANATHA

Pressure

And the Pharisees and Sadducees came, and to test him they asked him to show them a sign from heaven. He answered them, “When it is evening, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red.’ And in the morning, ‘It will be stormy today, for the sky is red and threatening.’ You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times. An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah.” So he left them and departed. Mat 16:1-4

An incessant desire for spiritual manifestations for their own sake is a desire for gratification. Gratification is a manifestation of self.

Signs, wonders, prophecies, and healings were barely on my radar when I first surrendered to Jesus. “Deny self, pick up your cross and follow me” Mat 16:24 and “…they loved not their lives onto death” Rev 12:11 resonated more with where and how God met me. Surrendering to Jesus meant switching sides, enduring tribulation, and possibly losing my life in an ongoing war. God gave his only begotten son to remove the body of condemnation and death from around my neck. Romans 7:24

Any blessing beyond that was ancillary.

That was our mindset when we left the United States for the mission field. Now that we have returned to first-world nation living we find ourselves increasingly challenged by an overarching theme of God’s love framed solely as warm fuzzy personal affirmations, success, prosperity, and patriotism otherwise known as my

“I…dentity”

“Oh, how he loves us!”

Ironically many don’t even question their myopic perceptions. After all, we are new creations because old things have passed away.  We have a new identity in Christ.  That said,

The issue is in the emphasis.

His identity, Not ours is the focal point of the gospel. He saved us because He is loving not because we are lovable. Ephesians 2 What if my idea of Jesus is my own reflection as I imagine it in His eyes?

That’s a hard conversation in Charismania.

“Charismania” describes among other things, a culture that thrives on self-affirmation, spiritual manifestations, and prophetic words. The Word of God is used as cherry-picked proof texts that confirm our experiences and self-perceptions. Absurdities like portals, barking, laughing, and journeys to heaven where missing Bible chapters are revealed along with other forms of modern-day Gnosticism result in doctrine more reminiscent of “Harry Potter” or “The Secret” than Biblical Truth. Like the sin that resulted in the Fall in the garden, it is at its core entirely self-centered. Some will undoubtedly be offended by what I write. Yet there are times when a spade just needs to be called a spade because people are setting up camp on proverbial train tracks.

They will perish for lack of knowledge. 

Here in Appalachia, we find ourselves ministering to familiar populations and patterns of brokenness – people stripped of all pretenses by “the system” – their proverbial dirty laundry aired for all to see.  These people need sobriety, not gnostic emotionalism, because their adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. 1 Peter 5:8. 

Sober is “nḗphō“- to be calm and collected in spirit, temperate, dispassionate, and circumspect.

Hence our teaching and counseling are always framed by time-tested principles of sustained addiction recovery. The first of which is

Selfishness and self-centeredness is the root of all our troubles”. 

AA Big Book pg 62

The effects may be more recognizable in the ostracized and disenfranchised at whom it is easier to point a finger than those still hiding behind spirit-filled fig leaves.

Yet self remains the primary issue from the Fall that ails us all.

When Adam and Eve ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil their eyes went from a one hundred percent focus on God to a one hundred percent obsession with self. Realizing they were exposed, they tried to hide behind a façade of fig leaves. 

The people to whom we minister have had their proverbial fig leaves torn away. Granted, their transparency is imposed and not the fruit of obedience per se but rather the fruit of their wrestling with God. It is the fruit of complete and utter brokenness.

For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones. Isaiah 51:15

In Genesis 32:30 after wrestling with God, Jacob called the name of the place Peniel: ‘for I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved. “Preserved” is Natsal: to deliver, rescue, and save…

…To strip, and plunder.

Like Jacob who walked with a limp for the rest of his life as part of God’s blessing, so will those to whom we minister be marked in some way by their brokenness.

“Wait!” “Did you say Jacob’s dislocated hip was a blessing?” 

YES!

The growing propensity among Christians to frame and experience the gospel as a self-centered health, wealth, and prosperity paradigm often achieved by political means is as futile as it is absurd.

True Signs and Wonders.

The other day I read a Facebook post from a friend who just lost her third child to suicide. The mind-numbing grief is so unimaginable that many do not have words to respond. Yet we know that our friend’s process of being conformed to the image of His son is as beautiful as it is genuine. She is a living epistle in the gospel of suffering.

“As I sit in my cozy home with my Bible and too much food in my kitchen and so, so many blessings, it seems to me that God is good. Not because of material things, but more so in the area of loss. I have lost 3 of my children, the 3 youngest, 3 that loved me, 3 that did not hold my failings over my head. 3 that I am convinced we’re saved! And so there is hope. Hope that we will be together again, one day- minus all the baloney of this life. Hope that they now- at last have full understanding of “why?” What has happened, how my life has transpired, the hardships, sufferings, pain and sorrow, is nothing compared to the glory which shall be revealed in Heaven. So many people have suffered hardship and grief throughout the ages. Many folks have had it ALOT worse than I do. Among those are many stories of strength and perseverance. The ability to continue on with this life in the face of great loss. To continue in hope. To know that God is sovereign and God is good.”

The power of the Holy Spirit’s operation in this woman’s life is as palpable as it is supernatural.  That a person could remain so faithful and strong amidst so much suffering and loss is a true sign and wonder. It is a genuine manifestation of the power of God flowing through a sober, humble, and contrite heart.

It is the fruit of brokenness.

So often I have sat amidst alleged manifestations of Holy Spirit with people prophesying prosperity, comfort, and other vain babblings while others twitch and “Woah”.  The unspoken implication is one of personal anointing, credibility, significance, and power. That it looks like turrets or epilepsy to me may be regarded as proof by some that I am not anointed. That I see virtue signaling and soulish one-upmanship rather than any fruit of the spirit listed in the Bible might be an indication of pharisaical religiosity. Still, last I checked, Galatians 5 lists Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and SELF-CONTROL.

Not seizures

Listen, your experience of God is your experience. At the end of the day, it’s between you and Him. Yet I’ve repeatedly seen and heard charismaniacs question another person’s relationship with God based upon the intensity or lack thereof of animated emotionalism during prayer or worship. There was a time early in my walk with the Lord when I’d watch charismatic histrionics and feel conflicted because, on one hand, it looked like “profane and vain babblings” 2 Tim 2:16-18. On the other hand, I feared I might be defective. I’ve had pastors question my salvation because I did not yell or pray in tongues at the time. Today I understand I was battling cognitive dissonance not an absence of faith or grace in my life.  How one expresses themselves is NEVER a measure of faith or grace.  At best our expressions are a soulish attempt to articulate what we are experiencing.

In the words of Jason Upton,

“Sometimes our praise is a manifestation of our doubt.”

Years later Mel Tari, Indonesian missionary and author of Like a Mighty Wind came to speak while we were in Harvest School in Mozambique.  Mel is an icon in our charismatic stream and no stranger to signs, wonders, and miracles to include seeing the dead raised.  The sun had just set in Pemba as 350 multinational millennials sat on the concrete pavilion floor jerking and twerking, exclaiming “whoa!” as Mel walked in.  He stood for a moment quietly observing the scene then shouted

“Knock it off!”

“You know what you are doing! Get up!”

The gift of self-control descended like an invisible cloud upon the crowd and everyone stopped. Many were offended. But they stopped.  Mel went on to teach the importance of knowing and preaching the word of God in the context of Mat 16:24.

“Deny self, pick up your cross and follow me”

Deny is “Aparnéomai” – to deny utterly, disown, abstain: to affirm that one has no acquaintance or connection with someone – to forget one‘s self, lose sight of one‘s self and one‘s interests. Turn’s out one’s new identity in Christ has absolutely nothing to do with any validation of self. Rather our new identity begins with Colossians 3:1-4.

If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.
For you have DIED, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

In the meantime, “The greatest among you shall be your servant,” not a celebrity. Mat 23:11

Here’s another idolatrous error worthy of note. Jesus healed bodily afflictions as part of His ministry.  That does not mean that healing bodily affliction was Jesus’s ministry. Jesus did not come to earth just to fix our flesh and cast out discomfort. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. 1 John 3:8. Those works began in and are a product of Genesis 3. He came to restore His creation to its original state in the Garden of Eden. Individual healing is one component. The seed of the error is the selfishness and self-centeredness that defines the works of the enemy as “whatever is making me feel bad”. The works of God in this life may come in the form of healing or pain, deliverance or tribulation, prosperity or poverty, comfort, and discipline.  They are always evidenced by transformation and at least one of nine types of fruit. Galatians 5:22-23. His joy, not ours is our strength. Nehemiah 8:10  Let’s face it, IF miracles and healings were His end game, Jesus would not have denounced so many cities.

Then he (Jesus) began to denounce the cities where most of his mighty works had been done because they did not repent.” Mat 11:20

Some just hit a sinkhole.

Another aspect of selfishness and self-centeredness is found in endless streams of on-demand self-affirming prophetic words.  Tell a young person God is going to make them an anointed YouTuber and they fall to their knees and weep tears of joy. Tell them Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever, that Jeremiah 18:7-10 applies to America today and you’re a

You’re a death-speaking doomsayer.

For 40 years Jeremiah warned of God’s impending judgment and the consequences that would result. I can not recall reading that even one person listened to him. Instead, they threw him in a hole. Jeremiah 38  Meanwhile, expedient positivity prophets of the day like those in Jeremiah 14 or Hananiah in chapter 28 promised peace and prosperity. In Hananiah’s case, Jeremiah said, “Amen! May the LORD do so…” Later the Lord told Jeremiah to call him a liar and pronounce death on him. Hananiah was dead in a year. Israel got the sword, famine, and captivity. We had a lot of Hananiahs in 2020 and some new ones today.

To paraphrase Art Katz, ‘true prophets are the most irrelevant people in the room until the day when they are the only relevant people in the room.’

Again, I am not some doomsday, heresy-hunting, cessationist, opposing supernatural manifestations, or positive life-giving prophetic words. My issue is with a lopsided ear-tickling gospel attended by soulish self-aggrandizing eccentricity that boldly masquerades as Holy Spirit, and the charismaniacs that refuse to test it.

Do not despise prophecies but TEST EVERYTHING; hold fast to what is good., Abstain from every form of evil. 1 Thess 5:20-22

How will we know the real if we are satisfied with a counterfeit? What is the point of the hoopla if there is no real transformation? Rom 12:1-2.

Last week the women in our recovery class asked. “Why do we have to keep hearing over and over again how much God loves us?”

“What’s wrong with that?” I asked.

That’s all we hear!

“That’s not even the milk!” Cathy exclaimed. 1 Cor 3:2

“It’s colostrum!”

Mind you the context of our previous conversations was related to childbirth. I often joke that we always end up discussing childbirth in our class. Cathy’s point was that colostrum is the precursor to breast milk. They were asking for meat. What I heard was,

How will we be able to withstand the evil day, having done all, to stand firm when we don’t know how to stand at all?Ephesians 6:13 

So I took them to the Olivet Discourse in Mathew 24, not for an eschatological dissertation. I went there because the reality of birth pains is something that all of them had in common. 

“But the one who endures to the end will be saved.” Mat 24:13

They were quick to make the connection between enduring in childbirth and enduring in life.  They’d had a choice. Endure to the end or abort their baby. The same principle applies to personal sanctification, and transformation, in the process of His preparation of a spotless bride. These are the works of God that destroy the works of the devil. In the interim, there’s a whole lot of tribulation, Mark 4:7, persecutions, Mark 4:17, fiery trials 1 Peter 4:12-14, testing, James 1:2-4 and shaking Hebrews 12:18-29.

Tribulation means “pressure”. 

Being conformed requires pressure. Romans 8:29

Birthing is accomplished with pressure Mat 24:21-31

Selfishness abhors pressure.

Sanctification and transformation are always birthed out of brokenness resulting from pressure.  This is counterintuitive in a culture where every discomfort and every trial is met with an assumption of evil and an ejaculatory appeal that “our will be done” in Jesus’s name. If it isn’t they ask, “why?”. Few ever ask,

What are you doing Lord?

What are you trying to teach me – work out in me?  What is it that you want to be shaken or burned off? What is it that needs to be stripped from my life, my flesh, my soul?  What are you birthing in and through me Lord?

We tend to read scripture through a similar lens. For example, most people focus on the subject of sin in the story of the man being born blind in John Chapter 9.  Why was the man born blind? The Pharisees focused on the possible presence of sin, contemporary Christians on its absence. Jesus dismisses the subject of sin entirely and points to the suffering the blind man endured so that the works of God might be displayed in him. John 9:2-3

The crux of the matter

It would seem that there is a complete absence of self-consciousness regarding narcissism in the halls of charismania. It manifests in what I call “the spirit of the selfie”. In addition to having a worldview constructed by social media where narcissism is a path to influence and influence to value and personal significance, many have been instructed by parents and peers that not feeling “seen or heard” is the root of their troubles.  Whatever it takes to be noticed is the cure.  No longer are selfishness and self-centeredness regarded as defects of character- “the root of all our troubles”, but as strengths and assets to be cultivated. They should be crucified. That pressure (tribulation) would come by the hand of God for our benefit sounds absurd.  It only follows that attention-seeking histrionics, politics, and perverse sign-seeking would be embraced as Holy. Most can not see that the collective focus has shifted from “less of me and more of “Him” to More of ME in His eyes – a 2 Timothy 3:2 “love of self”. Charismaniacs can’t or won’t see it because “narcissism” is always offended by what should convict.

“Offense” is skandalon: a trap – a snare.

Many are ensnared.

It is a snare to say rashly, “It is holy”, and to reflect only after making vows. Prov 20:25

So how do we answer the women in our class? Perhaps we should begin with Jesus’s first rebuke in Mathew 16 and interpret the signs of the times. God applied pressure (tribulation) each time Israel fell into idolatry. Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Hebrews 13:8 It only follows that he will apply similar pressure on us today. That pressure was and is a function of His judgment. Modern-day Marcionism rejects the application of God as a Judge to the New Covenant age. Many don’t like the word judge today and regard it as a euphemism. But there are three greek words for judge in the New Testament. Krino: to condemn Mathew 7, Anakrino, to discern 1 Corinthians 2:15 and Krisis: God’s Judgment Mathew 10:15 from which the word Crisis is derived. Crisis is tribulation – pressure.

Krisis” (judgment) is God’s way of pressuring His people to repent and be conformed.

I’m not going to go into every factor pointing to the reality that the precipice upon which we currently stand as a nation and a church is crumbling on all sides; that there are no political solutions to spiritual problems.   Quite honestly, you’d have to have your head under a rock not to see the signs of the times.

“God is dead – it’s just taking a while to get rid of the body.”

Yuval Noah Harari – spiritual advisor to Clause Shwab head of the World Economic Forum. 

Those who can not or will not see require more pressure to see beyond their self-preserving patriotic exceptionalism. Acts 10:34-35 Ironically the Pharisees and Sadducees whom Jesus rebuked as “An evil and adulterous generation (seeking) after a sign…” had the same issue with narcissism in that their perceived authority and destiny were rooted in their

Identity.

If identity is the Colostrum as Cathy says; then how do we get to the meat?

First, we must determine our direction and focus and make any necessary course corrections.

We might only be one degree off course. However, there is a vast difference between one degree off for 500 feet and one degree off for 500 miles. Long story short, if your course remains set on you, your identity, and your life then you will at some point be numbered among those whose hearts fail them for fear of what is coming on the earth Luke 21:26.  At that point the least of your concerns will be your disappointment over the myriad of unmet expectations and the self-centeredness you mistook for the voice of God.

You might be saved, but only “as through fire”. 1 Cor 3:15

The alternative is to identify and cease being conformed to the (selfish, self-centered, and narcissistic) ways of the world and be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Romans 12:1-2

“Renewing” begins with denying self. It means digging into God’s word and making His character and ways your focus instead of your identity, desires, and self-esteem. Yes, He loves you. Still, it’s not about YOU. How you feel about yourself has zero bearing on God’s will and plan.

Renewing involves embracing both His goodness and His severity. Understand that God disciplines those He loves… If He doesn’t you are an illegitimate child Hebrews 12:6-8 Only then will you begin to appreciate His Holiness. Hence renewal begins with acknowledging your wretchedness, before God. The greatest miracle is that He loves you despite your weaknesses and failures. His Holiness and love, not your worth, qualify you for His salvation.

Renewal is evidenced by an attitude that declares your adoration of Him not His adoration of YOU!

Renewing means to cease striving for His approval as you imagine it. If you do strive let it be to expose and boldly bring to the throne of grace your weakness, self-centeredness, absurdity, and silly-silly false pride such that you become worthy of the title that Paul assigned to Himself in 1 Corinthians 4:13,

“The offscouring of all things.”

Renewing means tearing off our fig leaves to crucify our facades. Renewing includes the revelation that your life is “In Him” not the other way around.

Renewing means “letting patience have her perfect work” James 1:4 until you recognize the utter futility of pursuing anything other than Him and His will. Your life is a vapor. James 4:14 He doesn’t owe you a thing. You on the other hand owe Him everything,

especially your gratitude!

At the end of the day, renewal can be likened to peeling an onion. There may be tears as each layer of self is peeled until finally all of “ME” – all of “MY Identity” has been plundered and stripped, to reveal Him and Him alone where my true life is hidden.

Any Krisis and resulting pressure in between is God’s mercy.

And not only so, but we glory in tribulations (pressures) also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope” and that hope does not disappoint. Romans 5:3-5

Our friend provides a glimpse of that hope.

“As I sit in my cozy home with my Bible and too much food in my kitchen and so, so many blessings, it seems to me that God is good. Not because of material things, but more so in the area of loss...What has happened, how my life has transpired, the hardships, sufferings, pain, and sorrow, is nothing compared to the glory which shall be revealed in Heaven. So many people have suffered hardship and grief throughout the ages. Many folks have had it ALOT worse than I do. Among those are many stories of strength and perseverance. The ability to continue on with this life in the face of great loss. To continue in hope. To know that

God is sovereign and God is good.

Phil 1:21

To live is Christ. To die is gain.

MARANATHA

The Metaverse Reloaded

“Multitudes multitudes in the valley of decision.” Joel 3:14

Saule Update

Saule Omarova’s confirmation as Treasury Comptroller appears to have been squashed by centrist Democrats following the revelation of her thesis “Karl Marx’s Economic Analysis and the Theory of Revolution in The Capital,” written when she attended Moscow State University on the V.I. Lenin Personal Academic Scholarship in 1989.

The sheer madness of this should be clear to anyone born before 1979.

Of course whether or not Omarova was confirmed isn’t the point. The revelation of intent is the issue at hand. As in the case of homicide and suicide, left unchecked, “intent” will eventually find a means to achieve its desired outcome. We address the intent so as to avoid the consequences of failing to do so. Omariva’s plan, which isn’t her plan at all, but the WEF’s, would begin with the centralization of all banking in the Federal Reserve. That includes your bank account. Every financial transaction would be monitored in real-time. This would be a first step in creating the infrastructure for a digital dollar, a blockchain-based cryptocurrency. Blockchain is the operating system supporting all major cryptocurrencies. Just think Bitcoin if you are confused. People like it because it is decentralized and transactions are peer-reviewed instead of government regulated and controlled. Right now it affords individuals a path to true freedom and the possibility of a genuine government of, by, and for the people. Of course, this is only true because governments have not established control over them.  For the record, the WEF likes cryptocurrencies.

They just want us to work out the bugs before they assume full control. 

Those rolling their eyes do so at their own peril. Several European nations including France and Sweden have already started down the digital currency path. Of course, conditioning the public to accept a digital dollar will be easier in some areas than in others. So how can the resistance be overcome?

Enter vaccine passports

While not the only option, it would appear that the blockchain digital infrastructure for money and banking could be preceded by a digital vaccine passport. At least it seems like a logical path at this time. The reasoning is simple.  Paper is problematic because it is easily destroyed, lost, or counterfeited. An obvious solution is a digitized passport most likely on smartphones or “wearables”. If the term “wearables” is confusing

Think “Fitbit”.

Or maybe an ankle bracelet. If you know then you know.😉

Blockchain isn’t mentioned until the very end. Still, smartphones can be lost, stolen, or compromised as well. Luckily, Quantum Dot Tattoos have been in the works for several years and coincidentally may provide a viable solution. These would theoretically allow one’s complete vaccine history to be encrypted and stored using nanotechnology.  No, it’s not a “chip” per se, even though it stores information like a chip.

Think of it as an injectable barcode.

My friend who is a robotics engineer also confirmed the QDT isn’t a chip, but just a copper dye QR code like a tattoo, but invisible to the naked eye. Of course, that’s really not the point. The point is they want me to take the info I now carry on a little yellow card with my passport and put it inside my body where they, (but not me) can access it when they desire. In terms of behavioral conditioning, it’s not a huge leap to my consenting to a chip that stores all my financial, identification, and medical data. Once again, this coincidentally fits perfectly with another proposed step in the plan.

Enter the “Body Activity”-based cryptocurrency.

Be sure to click through each of the Tabs e.g. “Patent Family”.

In this case, human bodies will essentially become crypto miners. Don’t freak out. It’s not slavery or the Mark of the beast. Not yet anyway. For those rolling their eyes, crypto miners are computers that “mine” cryptocurrency by processing complex mathematical algorithms at high speed. I have several friends that do this now. There is absolutely no digging involved. If you’d like proof of how easy it is, just download this CryptoTab browser and start mining Bitcoin for free now.

30 minutes of mining. This might take a while.🤔

Or maybe skip that and go directly to the COIN app and start mining cryptocurrency via body activity now!

All you gamers can earn money by playing video games. Imagine that. Steppers can throw away their FITBITs and get paid for their steps instead. And yes it’s a real Cryptocurrency called XYO that can be stored in an Etherium wallet and held, staked, or redeemed for Fiat currency. Again, fiat means paper dollars. Now imagine bypassing all those complicated steps and depositing your earnings directly into a central bank every minute of every day.

“Isn’t this like printing money out of thin air?” you ask.

YES

Still, those who understand fiat currencies and fractional reserve banking know this is pretty much how the global economy functions anyway. At least it does for Central Banks. The difference is that for now, these principles can work for the individual instead of just banks. Secular “all trueists” like those at Bitcoin Beach in El Salvador see it as the hope of the future. It’s certainly helping the poor in El Salvador now. Certain missionary organizations are exploring it as well. It actually makes perfect sense if secularism, pragmatism, and maybe even postmillennialism were true. Still, the goal is for human bodies to function as computer hardware without exorbitant electrical costs. It’s brilliant. Is this a behavioral conditioning for something more? Only slothful induction rolls its eyes, and snickers a snotty “no”. Is it verification of the Revelation 13 direction in which we are headed? I would say yes. At the very least the technology makes it more real even if the specific intent isn’t there yet. I’ll leave it for you to decide where we are on the intention timeline. Suffice it to say that for now, interacting with mammon is unavoidable. The operative question is where and when do we draw the line?

And what qualifies as worship?

Another interesting technological trend is the fairly recent push toward DNA computing. Digital code amounts to 1s and 0s. DNA code is composed of A, C, T, and G. This could radically expand memory and computational power. But don’t worry, as weird as this sounds the public narratives say DNA computing is still cost-prohibitive and still limited to test tubes.  Again, think “intent”. As for where we are today, I like to remember that they told us in 1983 that the SR-71 spy plane was a brand new advance in technology.

SR-71 Blackbird

Then I joined the Marines and learned they had it in 1968.

And consider this.

5Mb Government Hard Drive in 1956
64 Gb Consumer Hard Drive in 2021

“Wait. Did you say 2018?”

Yes

In case you were wondering, its sitting in about a tablespoon of tablesalt.

It helps if we understand that the pace of technological advances went exponential immediately following the invention of the automobile.

“But you, Daniel, shut up the words and seal the book, until the time of the end. Many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall increase.” Daniel 12:4

Of course, people have always freaked out and imagined the worst with every technological advance. Anyone with half a brain knows that’s just dumb.

In the meantime here is more current info to fill the proverbial blanks previously occupied by question marks.

Perhaps you’ve heard that the Facebook company name has changed to Meta. Meta means beyond. Mark Zuckerberg is creating a metaverse. Actually, a lot of other people have been doing it for a while. Mark just wants you to think he invented it so he can assume control.

Think of it as merging with a video game which is how it will begin.  Instead of manipulating a character from an external console, you will become the character or should I say the Avatar. Right now it still looks like VR glasses. But that’s just the beginning. Remember the holodeck on Star Trek? If you’ve seen the movie The Matrix then the intention just got real. The  Metaverse will be a literal digital universe where everyone can hang out without the hindrance of space and time. Think about it. Why fly or drive to a meeting when you can just sit in a chair or the toilet and show up as a well-dressed 3D Avatar in an NFT suit? (More on that later.)

I don’t even want to consider what porn addicts might do.

Whoops…

Who cares if you are locked down in your house or a battery pod?

AMIRITE?

So what if you become a biological crypto mining machine when you can roam freely doing anything you like on Pleasure Island… I mean the metaverse, with The Lady in Red.

Heck, even Holy Spirit will be taking up residence there.

Read the article above or check out the first 15 seconds of this video from THECHURCH.DIGITAL and you’ll get the point. And I’m not just talking about the coming AI god in Anthony Levandowski’s Way of the Future Church. I’m talking about the apostate body of Christ.

“And in those days shall men seek death, and shall not find it; and shall desire to die, and death shall flee from them.” Rev 9:6

I’ve always wondered how that one might work.

Of course, the fact that you just learned something new does not mean it’s a new idea.

I’ve been following Global Futures 2045 and especially their Avatar Project since 2012.

 “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” John 3:5

It looks like they are pretty much on track with the original plan. They might even be ahead of schedule. In a nutshell, they want to download people into computer Avatars so they can live happily and forever in a Matrix – I mean the metaverse and dispose of these nasty climate-destroying carbon-based life forms that are forever polluting mother Gaia.

Then they will have her all to themselves? No, they didn’t say that. At least I don’t think they said that.🤔

In addition to tieing all this to various crypto coins, one of the proverbial carrots being used to lure people, especially creatives into the metaverse right now is called NFTs.

NFT “Non-fungible Tokens”, are Crypto currency-type assets where creators create artwork in the form of video game-style Avatars and digital assets and then market them in the metaverse for ridiculous prices.

There are all sorts of crazy uses planned from tickets to elite parties to certificates of authenticity for antiquities and artwork. To be honest I don’t have a full understanding of these new crypto assets yet. But anyone who has played a modern video game knows that you can buy uniforms, weapons, vehicles, and upgrades for better game performance. So you get the idea. Old guys can think of it in terms of Monopoly as a video game. The only difference is that the money is real. Well sort of. You can still convert it to dollars that can be converted into tangible things like food and flack jackets. On the surface, it sounds pretty silly but fashion designers, interior decorators, and other content creators are invited to make a killing trading their art on a crypto exchange.

In fact I made one myself

Meet FX Crypt Dog

That’s right. I went there. I’m pimping my dog. Bidding starts at $120,000,000

Ironically money launderers love this idea. I’m thinking so will governments and multinational banks looking for an excuse to seize control of the crypto-verse all in the name of our well-being of course.

I’m quite certain they will.

Those naive enough to think they can’t or won’t should keep in mind that hard drives, power sources, and the people that profit from them are not bullet or bombproof. To paraphrase resident Joe Biden.

It would be pretty dumb to bring an AR-15 to an F-15 fight.

Just a few years ago this was all regarded as a conspiracy theory. Heck fifteen years ago, the idea that the Federal Reserve is not a US Government bank was a conspiracy theory. I’m not saying this craziness will succeed. Similar themes have repeatedly played out in history beginning in Genesis 6 and 11. Jesus said it would happen again with the same result during the end times. Mat 24:37-39. Right now I’m merely pointing out that some very powerful multi-billionaires are just crazy enough to try it all again.

It just so happens that their current efforts correlate with scripture.

Yes. I know.

“The wealth of the wicked is laid up for the righteous.” Proverbs 13:22

I get that. Just be careful. Be certain that you are firmly rooted in the word of God, sound-minded, and possess the fruits of the spirit especially self-control. If you are a person who finds gambling and especially slot machines anything other than mind-numbingly boring, then don’t even think about touching this…stuff.

You could lose your soul while trying to gain the world.

Don’t become a donkey.

Maranatha

The Persecution Line

“All that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.”

2 Tim 3:12-13

This is a discussion prompt, not a declarative blog per se. I want to know what you think. The heat is being turned up as people debate Afghanistan, COVID, and the best way to manage threats to public health and civil liberties. Lots of people, Christians especially are viewing it through the lens of persecution for which there are varying definitions. We know that the church is being persecuted in places like Afghanistan, China, Iran, Ethiopia, Mozambique Nigeria, etc. And while it would seem that the seeds of similar future persecution have been sown in the 1st World West, the fact remains that people are not being incarcerated, blown up, and beheaded for preaching the gospel. Given that we still have the freedom to debate whether or not we are being persecuted, I figured now might be a good time to ask, what qualifies as persecution and

what is the correct biblical response to it?

You may have heard about James Coates and Aurter Pawarreski, two Canadian pastors who were arrested for continuing to hold regular church services.

It’s almost old news now but it sparked a fiery and ongoing public debate. 

James Coats remained respectful while claiming the government has no authority over worship before turning himself into police. Artur Pawlowski is a Polish immigrant who repeatedly kicked health inspectors and police out of his church calling them “Nazis”.  He was still screaming ” Nazi!” and “Gestapo!” when they arrested him in the street. His supporters did the same from the sidelines. Artur Pawlowski is from Poland and his family suffered under the Nazi occupation and then Russian communists. 

He may understand more about what is coming than those of us raised in the entitled west.

Then there is the 71-year-old Pastor Sherwood arrested in London while  delivering a message on the sanctity of marriage.  His message was viewed as  homophobic.

There is no Biblical basis for homosexual marriage. Still, Sherwood wasn’t attacking homosexuals. He was defending the sanctity of biblical marriage on the basis that is a representation of Christ’s relationship to His Church.  He wrestled with the police a bit before they got him in handcuffs. Sherwood was preaching the word of God in a public square as it has been preached for the last two thousand years. It always has and always will anger certain people. Apparently the police were trying to defuse a volatile situation and he was later released. The Canadian pastors were incarcerated. In this case they claimed their authority superseded that of government officials based the constitution and Heb 10:25

“not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”

They view this passage as an absolute command rather than an exhortation to endure persecution. Hence they adopted Peter’s defense in Acts 5

“We must obey God rather than men.”

I could be wrong but the historic context of Hebrews 10 where believers risked imprisonment and death to gather, seems more akin to what is happening to believers in places like Afghanistan than those protesting COVID measures in the west. That’s not to say that I like or in anyway agree with what it happening in the west.

Only that the scriptural argument seems rather weak.

Meanwhile, the Canadian government and the pastor’s detractors insisted that it was a public safety issue and that no one told them they could not meet. They just had to comply with COVID health standards. That meant no more than 15% of capacity at a time. After all, there are fire safety regulations related to the size of public gatherings in buildings. The Pastors replied that this would require them to do an impossible eight or more back-to-back sermons per day. They asserted that censorship of their preaching was the real agenda. I understand and empathize with their passion as well as skepticism regarding COVID data on both sides. Still, what is the biblically correct response to authority when I do not agree with it? Where exactly is the boundary, the proverbial line in the sand that I must not cross?  

What is the deal-breaker, the proverbial hill upon which I must be willing die?

There have always been evil people who abuse scripture for the sake of an agenda. Jesus versus Satan in Mat 4 is a good example. Another would be how Adolf Hitler duped the Catholics and most of the German protestant church with  Rom 13,

“Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God…”

The standard argument against blind obedience to this passage today is rooted in verse 3

“For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, 

Our obedience is contingent upon the Government doing good. Otherwise, Peter’s declaration in Acts 5 applies. Yet context matters. Peter and the other disciples were specifically ordered to stop preaching the Gospel in Acts 5.

While the proverbial jury may still be in session regarding vaccines, there is a difference between bad, albeit well-intentioned public policies and carefully planned genocide.

Today we have places like China, Afghanistan, and Iran imprisoning, torturing, and killing Christians. China was officially exposed for harvesting the organs of  Falun Gong and Uyghur Muslims in 2019 when even the UN had to acknowledge it. I don’t see anyone protesting it apart from Uyghurs and Falun Gong themselves. The western Church acknowledges persecution but hardly anyone is on the streets engaging in civil disobedience. We also have the abortion genocide taking place. There have been a minority of fools using physical force to oppose it, the strongest opposition has been in the form of legislative battles and churches preaching the gospel while providing an alternative path to adoption.

I can not help but wonder if those supporting and or protesting COVID measures are genuinely concerned for the well-being of others, the violation of God’s law, and the persecution of His image-bearers.

Or does persecution only matter when it is happening to them?

In any case Mat 16:25 Mat 10, Mark 13:9–13, Luke 21:12–17 are worth considering.

Today more and more people in the west seem willing to go to jail or worse over masks, social distancing, and vaccine passports. Again, I’m not saying that I agree with government policy and MSM narratives. As I have said in the past, I DO NOT! I could be wrong but as time goes on I am increasingly convinced that whatever the actual agenda may be, our health and well-being are NOT it. I am also convinced that at least fifty percent of the global population, and I’m being generous, has ZERO ability to discern and filter fallacious arguments. Most simply choose a political tribe, open their mouths, and swallow the corresponding narrative like baby birds in a nest. I guess this affords them the illusion of safety and inclusion.

If I were the devil I’d be giddy as hell.

Hence, we must contend with the fact that Jesus beat the devil through submission as exemplified by the cross. As for us we have hard truths like that proclaimed by Peter in 1 Pet 2

“Beloved, I beseech you as aliens and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh that wage war against your soul. Maintain good conduct among the Gentiles, (unbelievers) so that in case they speak against you as wrongdoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation. Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to praise those who do right.  For it is God’s will that by doing right you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish men.  Live as free men, yet without using your freedom as a pretext for evil; but live as servants of God. Honor all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.” 1 Pet 2:11-17

Candlesticks of Christianity

I say “hard truth” because Nero was the emperor to whom Peter would have been referring at the time. Among other abominations, Nero is known for burning Christians as human candles to light the streets of Rome. It was under Nero that Peter was ultimately crucified.

He was killed for preaching the gospel not demanding his rights.

Whether or not the current global trajectory will be interrupted by opposing social and political forces is anyone’s guess. If I were a betting man I’d be all in on NO. Meanwhile, MSM narratives are becoming increasingly absurd. I’m not sure if this is indicative of their desperation or their arrogance.  Still, the fact remains that left unchecked, our current trajectory can only lead to Mat 24:1-13. I know people are cheering the new abortion legislation in Texas and rightly so as it is a dent in the ongoing genocide.

Still…

I suspect that any small victories on our part now will mainly serve as fuel for what is coming in verse 9.

“Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake.”

People hate us now for our biblical stand on abortion when we have little to no power over it. Imagine if Roe V Wade were overturned. Hence, our first, but certainly not our only concern within the body of Christ today should be verse 10.

“And then many will fall away (be offended) and betray one another and hate one another.”

The temptation for believers to be offended at one another on political grounds and deceptive MSM narratives will only get stronger. Offense is “Skandalon” in the Greek.

Skandalon means “trap”.

Perhaps you think this is hyperbole. Maybe you are still holding onto hope of the imminent return of the comfortable norm. If that is the case then old existential reality has yet to I for one believe we need to prepare the body of Christ to endure the coming persecution in a way that most glorifies God. Our sermons and conversations with one another should reflect that.  According to Voice of the Martyrs when a Muslim in the persecuted middle east surrenders to Jesus it is with the understanding and condition that they are willing to be persecuted and martyred for the sake of the gospel.

They are given zero hope of experiencing their best life now.

Perhaps you have already embraced this reality. If so, great. Now help to prepare others.  Still, I invite everyone to take an inventory of their lives and ask, “what evidence is there in my life that would suggest that I am prepared?” “What if anything needs to change?” “What is stopping me?” It’s no coincidence that Richard Wurmbrand the founder of Voice of the Martyrs saw persecution coming long before the Russians invaded Romania, long before he was thrown in prison and tortured for 14 years. He memorized 365 scriptures, one for each day of the year countering fear.  He went into persecution prepared to glorify God. That is exactly what he did.

His preparation continues to bear fruit today.

It also occurs to me as I write, that I have several competing points of view within my own mind. Maybe you can relate. There is the old man, the satanic fleshly former US Marine ready to throw down for “My rights damn it!”.  Then there is the logical, argumentative, apologist that abhors skewed data, logical fallacies, and especially the cult of scientism.  This part wants to believe that given enough evidence and a clear enough argument, most people will make the smart decision. Then there is the new man, the born again, spirit-filled, Acts 17:11 Berean style believer who stands on the 2 Tim 3:16-17 God-breathed truth that the word of God is the objective standard of all truth and conduct.

I discipline myself to choose the latter. 1 Cor 9:27

I am convinced that the body of Christ is at a crossroads today. It is increasingly marked by 1 Cor 11:17-19 division in the spirit of “choose this day whom you will serve”. Joshua 24:15 We need to clarify and commit to what glorifies God amongst ourselves rather than argue and divide over politics. There are a lot of heresies between WOKE and the Qanon cult. The most heretical typically sound the most loving in worldly terms. Every great-sounding heretical position and false gospel narrative is easily identified by the near or total absence of sound scriptural arguments. It seems to me that the only way for Christians to obey Jesus’s command in Mat 24:4 and choose wisely now is to make certain that our worldview and subsequent choices conform to the word of God.

Psalm 138:2

So what do you think?

Where is your persecution line?

Maranatha

The Gospel of the Kingdom

The Olivet Discourse

As I explained in the previous post a lot of Christians placed their faith in politics, people, and their hope in false prophecies regarding the reelection of Donald Trump.  Poor exegesis and perhaps no exegesis was the cause. Again, I did not want Joe Biden and I firmly believe that he and his administration represent abject evil. Still, God allowed it. He also allowed Nebuchadnezzar. As Christians, we need to depend on God and be guided by the Word instead of politics. Politics is the way of the world. Rather than viewing the times according to a new prophet with a new word from God we are commanded to study ourselves approved and rightly divide the Word of Truth. We are to view ourselves, the events of our lives, and the times in which we live through the lens of scripture.  Any serious study regarding the role of prophecy in the New Testament will quickly reveal that it involves Holy Spirit inspired preaching and teaching directly from scripture, not inspired additions to what is already written. That said, false prophecies are a mark of the end times.  So is persecution.  As for those who proclaim themselves to be apostles and able to operate in all the gifts, the qualification for such a title is given by Paul in 1 Cor 2 Cor 11. It involves being beaten, whipped, caned, shipwrecked, stranded at sea, starved, naked, thirsty, and robbed, considered a weakling, a fool, and persecuted by fellow believers, all the while being a servant to all and above all prioritizing one’s “deep concern for all the churches”. Martyrdom, not prosperity was their final reward.

Our Hope in Two Parts

We must understand that the Gospel message preached by the apostles was two-fold. The first was the Gospel of Salvation whereby Jesus conquered sin and death and made a way for all people to be reconciled to the Father by grace through faith that was in itself a gift so no one may boast. This is the meaning of Jesus’s words “It is finished”. The second was the Gospel of the Kingdom that remains to be fulfilled. Together they are Maranatha.  Jesus has come.  Jesus is coming. It was not a message of an earthly kingdom NOW, as even the apostles initially thought.  While the message was most certainly prophetic it had absolutely nothing to do with our prosperity or comfort in this life. Nor were the disciples consumed with themselves, their identities, or their own reflections as they imagined them to be in God’s eyes. Rather the Gospel of the Kingdom that they preached was an apocalyptic one rooted in the Old Testament, especially the book of Daniel.

So what time is it?

Jesus gives the disciples a near bullet-point outline of events leading up to the establishment of His Kingdom on earth in Mat 24 and the first part of what is commonly known as the Olivet Discourse.

He was extremely clear in answering the disciple’s question regarding the sign of His coming and the end of the age. He prefaced or book ended the outline by pointing to the Temple and saying,

“You see all these, do you not? Truly, I say to you, there will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.” Mat 24:1-2

That prophecy was fulfilled when the second temple was destroyed by the Romans under Titus in 70AD.

The outline begins in Mat 24:3

  • First He said to be careful that no one deceives you that many would claim to be “Christ”. It is important to remember that the Bible was not written in English.  Therefore we must not take our understanding based upon our English Bible versions for granted. Christ is Greek for “Christos” and means “anointed”. Consider for a moment how flippantly we toss that word around today. “They will deceive many” Mat 24:4-5. While anyone claiming to be Jesus today is sure to be dismissed out of hand, “anointed” also refers to those who presume themselves qualified to speak in His name.  Many claim to be anointed today. Many are being deceived.
  • Then Jesus describes the coming birth pains. War and rumors of war, nation against a nation. While we tend to read “nation” as “country”, nation translates to ethnos or people group. It is the word from which the English word ethnicity is derived. There will be pestilences e.g. plagues and locusts, etc., famines and earthquakes. Of course, all of these have continued throughout history and there are multitudes of false prophets who have tried to time the second coming accordingly. That is perhaps one reason why so many pastors today avoid eschatology completely. We know for certain that all of these have increased in scope and frequency since Jesus was crucified. It would appear that earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, forest fires, and storms, in particular, have increased in size and or frequency over the last several decades. Climate change activists warn of coming droughts and famines.
  • Then His followers will be hated, persecuted, and killed. This too has continued and is once again on the rise throughout the world today. One need only visit the Voice of the Martyrs and Open Doors websites to see that global persecution of Christians is on the rise. More Christians have been martyred in the last century than on all previous centuries combined. Granted the severity of persecution in the US is nowhere near that of places like Iran, China, and Ethiopia to name a few. Yet given the admitted spirit and agenda of the current administration, its sanctioned organizations like BLM, ANTIFA, etc. and the growing negative public perception of Christians it’s not hard to imagine what could be coming soon.
  • And many will be offended, betray one another. I could be wrong but I am unaware of any other time in history when the Body of Christ has been so divided.
  • And hate one another.
  • Then many false prophets will deceive many.
  • And lawlessness will abound
  • And the love of many will grow cold.

It doesn’t require a statistician to see the exponential increase in these four in my lifetime alone. In addition to false teachings in the church, they are increasingly fueled by a post-modern and or neo-Marxist world view that eliminates the idea of objective truth and especially objective moral law. It is the same spirit of anti-Christ that resulted in the deaths of at least one hundred million people in the previous century alone. 

  • But those who endure will be saved.

The exact nature of that endurance is clarified in Rev 12:11

  • And (in the midst of all this) the gospel will be preached within all of the world as a witness to all Nations (ethnos, people groups) Please note the word “witness” does not refer to passing out tracks on a street corner. Witness means “Martyr”.

Then the end will come. Mat 24:15

This is the opposite bookend in the outline. The verses that follow further clarify what Jesus outlined here.

THIS IS IMPORTANT

You will notice that at no point did Jesus say the church will be evacuated (Raptured) and spared from the Great Tribulation. The truth be told the idea of a Pre-Tribulation rapture never existed before 1830.  Jesus was clear. The church must endure and the gospel will be preached amid, and as a result of, that enduring.  Those hungry for revival will be happy to know that a deep dive into Joel 2 will reveal that the greatest revival on earth will accompany the greatest tribulation the body of Christ has ever known.

Obviously, my flesh would prefer that the whole world came to Jesus amidst my own comfort and prosperity followed by a quick cloud ticket out before things get uncomfortable.

The fact remains that the gospel has always thrived the most amidst persecution.

In addition,

Tribulation, not prosperity is the seed of the Hope that does not disappoint. Rom 5:3-5

Suffering is part of God’s plan.

Keep in mind I am only sketching things out here.  Again, we know in apart and we all see as in a glass darkly. You might see things differently.  If so I’m happy, (actually excited) to look at any scripturally base argument that you (not a YouTube video) can provide.

Moving on…

“So when you see the abomination of desolation spoken of by the prophet Daniel, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand),.then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains…” Mat 24:15-16

The New Testament was not yet written during the Apostle’s missionary journeys, let alone the book of Revelation. The Book of Daniel was their primary Gospel. Hence Jesus would have expected them to know what He was talking about. The abomination of desolation was in direct reference to Dan 9:27Dan 11:31, and especially Dan 12:11-12.

For those who love deep dives,

Dan 12:11-12 gives and the exact timeline for when the Tribulation will begin and end.  Contrary to popular belief, Mat 24:36 “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only.”  is not a broadly stated principle implying that Jesus could come at any time.  It specifically refers to the period between the end of the tribulation and the Dan 7 appearance of Jesus.  As for the tribulation itself, do the math.  1290+1335 = 2625×365 = 7.2 years. That is where we get the 7-year timeline for the tribulation.

– Suffice it to say that at some point the daily sacrifice will be taken away and the abomination of desolation set up. Dan 12:11 sets this time period at 1290 days or 3.5 years which according to my model would be the midpoint of the Tribulation. Those claiming that the A of D took place in Jesus’s day or the Dome of the Rock was it must ignore the context of Dan 12:11-12. The Dome construction was a six-year project completed in 691 AD. The daily sacrifice was taken away in 70AD. Even if we interpret a day as a year that leaves us with 621, not 1290. The only way the math works is if we take the week in Dan 9:27 to mean 7 years and “days” in Dan 12:11-12 as literal days. The only other option is that we are nowhere even close to the end and none of what I am saying matters. However, if  I am correct, the daily burnt offering will be re-implemented. It is alsoworth noting that Rabbinic law requires that the sacrifice be performed on the Temple Mount but not necessarily in the temple itself. At the very least a third altar needs to be constructed. It has. In fact, we saw a portable altar ready to be towed into place when we were in Israel. The problem is that Temple Mount is home to the Dome of the Rock which is a Muslim Mosque. Jews are forbidden to worship there even though it sits in the center of Jerusalem and the entire area is under the control of the Jordanians. 

Enter Donald Trump

Perhaps you heard of the Abraham Accords whereby President Trump brokered a deal that resulted in formerly hostile Arab Muslim nations making peace with Israel to include a realignment of powers that looks a lot like the Kings of the North and South in Eze 38.  (More on that later provided there is enough interest as this is already becoming a sermon outline.)

Perhaps more importantly, Saudi Arabia is now Israel’s ally and Jordan no longer has exclusive control over the Temple Mount. Saudi Arabia is the site of Mecca to which Muslims are expected to make at least one Hajj (pilgrimage) in their lifetime.  Therefore, in my opinion, the Temple Mount may be much less of a concern to them. 

Meanwhile, the Palestinian Authority has expressed concern over rumors that the Dome of the Rock will soon be replaced by a 3rd Jewish Temple. Of course, the Jewish Sanhedrin has been negotiating behind the scenes for years and preparing to begin construction within just days of receiving permission to return to the Temple Mount. Israeli Prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu is in full support of this effort. 

My point here is that I am viewing world events through the lens of scripture.  The next event that believers should be watching for is not a miraculous restoration of traditional American values, as comforting as that would be, but the return of the Jewish people to the Temple Mount and the re-institution of the Daily sacrifice. 

At some point after that, the Anti-Christ who according to Ezekiel comes from Gog, which is somewhere in the area of present-day Northern Syria and Southern Turkey will be revealed.  He will be identified by the false peace in Dan 9 followed by the end of the daily sacrifice and the abomination of desolation. We can only speculate what that might be. Still, the back-to-back adjectives “abominable” and “desolate” imply that it will be pretty clear when it happens.

These two events mark the point where we can begin the 7-year count down.

What follows in Mat 24:16-28 pertains to details and instructions for Israel during the  Tribulation particularly in reference to Jer 30 and what is commonly known as The Time of Jacob’s Trouble. This will be the final and most severe chastisement of Israel such that if those days were not shortened no flesh would survive out of which the biblical, as opposed to the current self-appointed Remnant believers will emerge.

Mat 24:29-31 describes the return of Jesus and what many call the Rapture. This is in direct reference to Dan 7:13-14. Entire volumes have been written on this chapter in Daniel but suffice it to say that The Son of Man in Daniel is the Son of Man to which Jesus referred to Himself at least 78 times. It was His primary identity, declaration of His deity, and the main reason why the Jewish leaders wanted Him dead.

Mat 24:32-51 and Mat 25 provide more details regarding our preparation and response in parable form.  They are not separate events.

You may have noticed that I didn’t say a whole lot about the Book of Revelation here. The reason is simple.  It is the hardest to understand and characterized by the most insane and twisted interpretations of any book in the Bible. Hence a majority of eschatologically minded believers tend to be more concerned with avoiding the Mark of the Beast, than provoking the Jewish people to jealousy. The Book of Revelation is impossible to understand without a firm grasp of Old Testament end times prophecy.  Don’t even think about delving into Revelation without first understanding Daniel, Jeremiah, Habakkuk, Joel, and Ezekiel for starters.

Finally, a correct understanding of eschatology is a fantastic evangelistic tool. Most people don’t want to hear they are sinners.  Almost everyone is interested in the End Times. That opens the door to the full Gospel message especially as we witness the fulfillment of end times prophecy.  A correct understanding of eschatology could also potentially determine whether a believer ends up in Heaven or Hell.  For example, I often wonder what might cause a great 2 Thes 2 falling away that would correspond with the man of perdition (the anti-Christ) being revealed?  What better cause could there be than a reported 71% of believers who currently adhere to a pre-tribulation rapture view suddenly, finding themselves left behind? What about those with a post-millennial view  committed to transforming the culture and “making earth great again” so Jesus can return?  What happens when everything they believed in and worked for is shaken and burned up and they face imprisonment and death? 

And you thought crushed MAGA dreams were bad?

Listen maybe I am completely wrong and the faithful will get a cloud ticket out of the tribulation? What do I know? After all, I’m only studying, not prophesying.  In that case, great! Apart from the last 16 years of being married to the most wonderful wife beyond anything I ever could have imagined, the majority of my time on earth has been brutal, full of tragedy, and heartbreaking. Maybe suffering is too much of a norm for me.  Or maybe I have a partial understanding of what Paul meant when he said,

To live is Christ. To die is gain.

I will continue to pray for the grace required to be faithful even unto death.

Maranatha!

Choose Your Hill

The likely duration of the devastation in Honduras is just starting to sink in following our outreach last week. The sense of powerlessness we felt as we passed miles and miles of tarp cities along the way is hard to describe.

1 min video no script just footage.

Meanwhile, Josh fell hard off a ladder and injured his shoulder. His arm is in a sling.  If that weren’t enough our ministry vehicle has big issues and 

We are grounded for a few weeks.

What to do, what to do?…

I know. How about we catch up on the news.

Errant Epistemology

As usual, our world is in turmoil over worldviews and politics.  As always there are many on both sides of the political sewer stream who believe they know the truth. Yet apart from hands on daily experience the only thing any of us really know for sure is the content of what we have been told or shown via some form of media. Like it or not most of what we consume only skews reality.  As a media creator myself I know that some of that skewing is inevitable. Some is by design.

Inevitable causes result from the emphasis being determined by the creator. If you watch one of my videos you inevitably see what impacts me. I want you to see and feel what I see and feel. That’s why I’m creating it. The greater my passion the more my own biases pass through the lens of your perception, world view, and life experience. You then draw your own conclusions and pass them onto others. The process goes on ad Infinitum.

On some level, every media consumer becomes a co-errant creator.

Skewing by design is intentional and may be used to honor or dishonor the subject.

Anyone who has been interviewed by me knows that I cut errors. Any hesitation, confusion, cussing, stuttering, or farting is removed such that even the most awkward and nervous subject looks like a seamless orator. I do this both for the sake of time and honor. The dark side of this is that people can be made to say things they never said.  All it takes is a simple switching of camera angles and adding b-roll to cover spliced clips.  For example, I could ask you what you thought about cockroaches in one question and what you think about puppies in the next then splice the answer to the first question onto the second and walla!  You have been transformed from a clean person into a genocidal puppy killer. 

Yes, it’s really that easy.

Viewing is skewing

The diminishing attention span and patience of viewers as well as the accelerated speed at which people scroll through SM messages requires videos to be shorter and shorter.  Advertisers know they have no more than 5-15 seconds to hook you or you will scroll through their message on your device.  That’s why they allow you the “Skip Ad” option. As a result, billions of people make instant and completely subjective decisions regarding truth and the nature of reality everyday based on media titles and headlines like “Trump Invokes Insurection Act” alone.

You don’t have the wisest serpent in the den to discern where this might lead.

What is True?

Four years ago on New Year’s Eve, we were en-route back to Kauai from Africa where we had attended the Iris Global Harvest School of Missions.

Africa was paradigm-shifting, to say the least.  We saw what it means to really lay it all down for the sake of the gospel.  We learned that while miracles and projects happen and doctrinal differences always arise, mission work a.k.a. Christianity begins and ends with intimacy with God and stopping for the one in front of you

Thankfully it wasn’t until we returned that we heard the myriad controversies regarding Heidi Baker. Like any famous person she is enshrined by some and bedeviled by others. Suffice it to say that anyone who has not personally encountered her on the mission field should stop talking.

The same applies to Christians talking about anyone’s character whom we only know via the media. As it turns out I have been duped too. Allow me to be the first to repent of this.

The entire body of Christ is comprised of fallen, cracked pots.

How easy it is to forget the brokenness that drew us to Christ in the first place.  Still, the body of Christ has had challenges with discerning and holding onto truth from the start. One minute the Corinthians are on fire for the gospel. Then getting rebuked for sexual immorality in next. 1 Cor 5 On a good day we prophecy in part, know in part, and see in a glass darkly. Therefore everything we do must be grounded in a love for one another that we model before others. John 13:35  Otherwise we become loud dystopic clangs in an already dying world. 1 Cor 13:1

There’s a lot of clanging today

I don’t know about you but I can be pretty fiery. It doesn’t take a whole lot of media viewing to stoke my stupidity and expose my deficits in this area.

Part of the problem is that our society has become an ocean of normalized narcissism where personal opinions and significance have become idols and are monetized by Social Media. Yup being angry at someone because they disagree with the ALMIGHTY ME is narcissistic. Calling for revolution or civil war is psychotic. It may be coming soon thanks to the new religion of

Self-aggrandizement and maligning others in the temple of the smartphone.

“The Social Dilemma” is an absolute must for anyone who has ever asked questions like “How could anyone believe the Marxist driven Portland riots were a peaceful protest” or “How could any Christian support a Nazi white supremacist homophobic rapist like Donald Trump?”

The answer is scarier than you might imagine.

About two years ago I wrote Truth or Trump where I discussed what I learned during my old Forex trading days regarding how media manipulates markets and political narratives for profit. I concluded that political rage is destroying the witness of Christians. In the Anatomy of Deception, I covered the economic theory of Reflexivity and what George Soros termed the Fertile Fallacy and the Manipulative Function by which he determines reality. These also drive markets, public opinion, and behavior. That all of the aforementioned entities are working together to reform humanity in the forge of social media is- well… terrifying.

“The Social Dilemma” was a proverbial capstone.

God and Government – Fear Not

While there are all sorts of typological analogies that can be drawn from the Old Testament regarding kings and kingdoms, it is God who establishes both in accordance with His disposition toward nations. Our God-given rights can only be revoked by Him.

His disposition toward Israel in Habakkuk 1 and Jerimiah 19 looks very different from Isaiah 45.

Hence He established both Nebuchadnezzar and Cyrus.

Those who assume God didn’t establish Joe Biden and stand ready to redo 1776 should consider the almost prophetic words of John Adams in a letter to the Massachusetts Militia on October 11, 1798.

“We shall have the Strongest Reason to rejoice in the local destination assigned us by Providence. But should the People of America, once become capable of that deep simulation towards one another and towards foreign nations, which assumes the language of justice and moderation while it is practicing iniquity and extravagance; and displays in the most captivating manner the charming pictures of candor frankness & sincerity while it is rioting in rapine and insolence: this Country will be the most miserable habitation in the World. Because we have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Avarice, ambition revenge or gallantry, would break the strongest cords of our constitution as a whale goes through a net. Our constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”

The operative question here is; do the words, “moral and religious people” describe our nation today?

If that gets you thinking then you might be ready to read The Killing of Uncle Sam.  Whatever you might think of Dr. Rodney Howard Brown’s controversial theology, he is writing as a historian. It definitely lends perspective to the words “turn from their wicked ways” in 2 Chron 7:14

“if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”

The bibliography alone is worth twice the price of his book. 

Many of problems we face today are largely a result of our nation’s collective obsession with Netflix and sports instead of history, civics, and sound Bible exegesis.  That two generations increasingly view what amounts to neo-Marxism as compassionate Biblically sound doctrine is a reaping of what we have sown.

Today we are in a very precarious position.

Everyone is being gaslit.

Everyone needs to question their epistemology.

“It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s … thick with evidence that a truth is not hard to kill and that a lie told well is immortal.” – Mark Twain –

Our desire for and self-proclaimed God-ordained entitlement to justice comfort and prosperity is the source of our undoing.  That’s the round about way of saying, “mammon kills!” Those are hard words but Jesus had hard words for those who should have known better. They are preserved for our edification.  He and the apostles preached and modeled a message of total surrender of everything but the gospel.  In the end, none but Judas backed down.  All were beaten and killed for preaching it.

They did so amidst the following political climate and under rulers whom they never once opposed on political grounds.

  • Herod Antipas imprisoned and beheaded John the Baptist in 28AD for criticizing his marriage.
  • In 37AD well known Caligula embarked on a reign of terror which included the execution of James and the imprisonment of Peter from which he miraculously escaped.
  • He was succeeded in 41AD by Claudius, who expelled all the Jews from Rome.
  • 62 AD saw Nero who blamed/set up Christians for the Great Fire of Rome in 64AD.  He is best known for burning Christians as human candles and sending them to their deaths in the amphitheater. Both Paul and Peter were executed by Nero in 66AD.  Nero committed suicide in 68AD and was succeeded by Vespasian, 69AD.
  • Titus destroyed the Temple in Jerusalem in 70AD. He died in 81AD and was succeeded by his younger brother Domitian.
  • Domitian continued to persecute Christians because they wouldn’t worship the Roman gods or sacrifice to the Emperor.  He exiled the apostle John to the  island of Patmos in 89AD

The Beatitudes and the Sermon on the Mount define our rights.

Here are some more hard words.

The gospel is not a call to political change, comfort, prosperity or even justice in this life. The Gospel is a call to die.

There is a poignant scene in the passion of the Christ where Mary is seen clutching fists full of the earth as her son is being nailed to the cross.  She rises from her knees in conjunction with the soldiers pulling the cross into its vertical position then opens her fists to release the earth as the cross drops into the supporting hole. No one including the disciples understood what was happening until after the resurrection.  The very act that brought eternal hope to the world emptied all of them of any hope they had in it.

All of us must get to this point.

Cathy and I often wonder how we and others would react to the crucifixion of our King if it happened today.

I suspect many would be calling for revolution and civil war.

Rev 13:10 is clear.

There is a lesson for America there.

As for us our heart and our hill are best described in the words Cathy recently wrote to a friend.

Bringing Hope in a dying world is our heart cry. That Hope on a starving person’s death bed is longer lasting than any hot meal. Of course, a hot meal is good and important too. But knowing that when they leave this world, even if they are all alone, that Jesus’ arms are open and, ready to receive them into eternity with Him is all that will matter then. That said, our prayer request is that this message of Hope will cross the language barriers, that Holy Spirit is active and Jesus is glorified.  That we will continue to hear and be obedient to God’s leading and that

His will be done!”  

Now might be a good time to pause from climbing the summit of success and define the hill upon which you are willing to die.

Maranatha!       

Better than Nineveh

Most Old Testament prophecies have been fulfilled and therefore were not written directly to us, or about us.  Nevertheless, many of us like to cherry-pick and incorporate selected verses for ourselves.  We love the assurance of verses like Jeremiah 29:11 originally addressed to Israel. We apply significance to ourselves with verses like Isaiah 61:1 even though it’s about Jesus in Luke 4:18-19 declaring his identity in the temple 700 years later.  Granted these verses continue to edify us regarding God’s unchanging character, plan, and purpose. Even so, why do we only apply the warm fuzzy words instead of hard ones like Jeremiah 14 or Isaiah 5:20

Why not Nahum?

Approximately one hundred fifty years after its collective repentance and subsequent reprieve as a result of Jonah’s obedience, Nineveh was back in the biblical judgment news.

While Nahum was clear that  “The LORD is good, A stronghold in the day of trouble; And He knows those who trust in Him.” Nah 1:7 like any true prophet he was also clear that God isn’t playing games and “reserves wrath for His enemies.” Nah 1:2

Still the question remains; who are His enemies?

He is clear in his rebuke and declaration of God’s judgment.  Nineveh had become a nation of many races and was sustained by greed. Substance abuse was rampant. Nah 1:9-10 There was violence in the streets, leaders plotted against the Lord and looting abounded in all its forms. Nah 2:9

But looting was not limited to rioters in the streets. Nahum describes Nineveh’s leaders as “swarming locusts, and grasshoppers”. Nahum 3:17 Grasshoppers and locusts pillage and never produce. They disappear in the light of the sun.

As in the days of Jeremiah who rebuked the lying prophets for their ear-tickling positivity and their claims that God said things that He never did, Jerm 14:13-15 the people of Nineveh had become complacent and perhaps oppositional. Apparently, they thought they were immune to God’s judgments. To which Nahum replies,

“Are you better than populous (Thebes)?…” “…(who) “was carried away, into captivity”. Nah 3:8-10

While his meaning may not have been quite as literal as the interpretation might be today, Nahum declares,

“Your people (men) have become women” the gates of your land are open to your enemies.”  Nah 3:13

And finally

“Your shepherds slumber, O king of Assyria; Your nobles rest in the dust. Your people are scattered on the mountains, And no one gathers them.” Nah 3:18

There are a lot of ear-tickling, positivity prophets, and preachers these days. Almost all of them are declaring that “sword and famine shall not touch our land” and that peace and assurance shall abound. Jer 14:13 They minister to individual self-esteem at the expense of salvation and stoke the flames of personal significance instead of fear of our God who is a consuming fire.  Heb 12:29 

All declare an imminent revival.

Few call for repentance.

Everyone loves them. Everyone speaks well of them. Luke 6:26

The Bible is ultimately the most positive and hopeful message mankind has ever seen. Yet it is a conditional one. It’s time frame is eternal. It demands we abandon our ways and become set apart (Holy).  This process begins with repentance from sin. Apart from this, no message, no word, no action on our part means a thing. 

If you compare the state of the world today with the likeness of Israel back then; what do you see?  Do you see a pleased God declaring Jeremiah 29:11 over society at large or do you see Isaiah 5:20 and Jeremiah Chapter fourteen

Given that God’s character, plan, and purpose do not change and Ecc 1:9 explains that history repeats; why would anyone believe that it won’t repeat now?

What does true love look like in the context of today?

What kind of messages do people really need?

If one old testament prophecy can be appropriated today, then all can be be appropriated.

Nineveh was overrun and destroyed.

Are we better than Nineveh?

Maranatha!

Character

We are locked down in Honduras as I write. COVID cases have begun to double on a daily basis. The borders and airports are closed. No one can come in or go out. There’s a 6 month to 2-year jail sentence awaiting anyone who violates a curfew.  Hondurans in our little community are obedient and calm. They are familiar with crises.  Two older American friends in another part of the country are locked down too.  He is a retired architect and has had a series of strokes. His wife is left to cope with his rapidly deteriorating condition by herself. They don’t have COVID but COVID is placing his life in jeopardy.

Meanwhile there are about two hundred North Americans, most of whom are short term missionaries stranded here.  Several of them are demanding their rights and that the US State Dept does something to evacuate them.  We strongly encouraged people to postpone their trips weeks before COVID first reared its head.  Unfortunately confirmation bias reigned supreme. I guess their plans, ministry and mission were too important.  I can empathize. I remember thinking and feeling the same way as a short-term missionary myself. 

As Seth Barnes founder of Adventures and Missions, (AIM) an organization with whom we serve as World Race GAP Year Coaches, said in his blog Courage and Prudence

“We are now in a wartime footing in most of the country. Most of us have no idea how to live life there. The things that worked before no longer work. COVID-19 is changing everything.”

Several months ago, I gave a teaching based on the book

The Fourth Turning: An American Prophecy-What the Cycles of History Tell Us About America’s Next Rendezvous with Destiny. By William Straus and Neil Howe. I had no idea at the time how prophetic it was.

Howe and Strauss are Historians and social scientists who observed an Ecclesiastes 3 cycle in American history that shows a new era, a season or “Turning” every 20 -25 years. Four turns or seasons amount to a Saeculum or the length of a long lifetime. In simplest terms, the most recent “First Turning” 1945 -65 was the “High” and could be likened to a honeymoon period.  It was marked by the end of WWII and the birth to the American dream. Families were strengthened as were social institutions like schools, local governments and church. Individual roles both inside and outside the family were clearly defined.

The “Second Turning”, 1965-85, the “Awakening”, was a period of questioning all those things. It was a time of spiritual upheaval, when the old order came under attack. It was marked by things like the birth of ERA, the Vietnam war and the subsequent student lead peace movements, the Water Gate Trial and Impeachment of Richard Nixon. Basically, every social institution was challenged. 

The “Third Turning”, 1985-2005, the “Unraveling” was a time when the individual reigned supreme. Punk rock and rap glorified criminality and anti-social behavior, swinging, divorce and open homosexuality became normalized. And culminated with the HIV AIDS epidemic and the destruction of the twin towers in New York.  Post Modernism grew to become the dominant world view and continued corruption and government scandals fueled an already growing distrust of nearly all established authority and institutions.  

The “Fourth Turning” 2005 -25 is the “Crisis”. We are in the thick of it now.

As Straus and Howe wrote in 1996.

“The next Fourth Turning is due to begin shortly after the new millennium, midway through the Oh-Oh decade. Around the year 2005, a sudden spark will catalyze a Crisis mood. Remnants of the old social order will disintegrate. Political and economic trust will implode. Real hardship will beset the land, with severe distress that could involve questions of class, race, nation, and empire. . .The very survival of the nation will feel at stake. Sometime before the year 2025, America will pass through a great gate in history, commensurate with the American Revolution, Civil War, and twin emergencies of the Great Depression and World War II.”

The risk of catastrophe will be very high. The nation could erupt into insurrection or civil violence, crack up geographically, or succumb to authoritarian rule. If there is a war, it is likely to be one of maximum risk and effort — in other words, a total war. Every Fourth Turning has registered an upward ratchet in the technology of destruction, and in mankind’s willingness to use it.”

Howe and Strauss predicted we Americans will be forced to make decisions that mirror the hardest ones made by our predecessors as

“great peril provokes a societal consensus, an ethic of personal sacrifice, and strong institutional order”.  “And it will require us to admit that our faith in linear progress has often amounted to a Faustian bargain with our children. Faust always ups the ante, and every bet is double or nothing. Through much of the Third Turning, we have managed to postpone the reckoning. But history warns that we can’t defer it beyond the next bend in time.”

There is always talk of the end of days whenever a major crisis hit. I don’t claim to be a prophet and I certainly don’t know for sure.  My own bias is to doubt it.  Even so, my wife Cathy made a keen observation the other day. The beginning of sorrows that Jesus spoke about in Mat 24:8-13 translates to “Birth Pangs”.  Birth pangs progressively increase in frequency and intensity until the water breaks and the baby is born.  If this is the beginning of sorrows it will usher in the millennial reign of Christ. Fourth Turns gradually come to an end and are followed by another High.  

In either case if we are to survive in a war time footing, we need to accurately discern the time. Jesus rebuked the Pharisees for their lack of discernment in Mathew 16:1-4.

“Hypocrites! You know how to discern the face of the sky, but you cannot discern the signs of the times.” A wicked and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, and no sign shall be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah.”

Everything they needed to identify Jesus was already in the scriptures.  The problem was that Jesus did not match their interpretation and resulting expectations and Jesus remained hidden in plain view.

A lot of us have the same problem today.

Signs, wonders and spiritual gifts are all the rage these days.  Myriad charismatic leaders inspire people to follow in their footsteps.  Evangelists, prophets, those with gifts of healing and an angle on prosperity abound. Those with the most dramatic, feel good performances and the biggest followings on social media become heroes of the faith even if their teachings are scripturally unsound.  Jesus said,

“Woe to you when all men speak well of you, for so did their fathers to the false prophets.” Luke 6:26 and “As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man.” Mat 24:37 Noah preached repentance and righteousness 2 Pet 2:5 then built an ark in the middle of the desert. He was mocked and rejected as a result.  How much more are those who preach the same message in 2 Timothy 3 world rejected?  

Cathy just read some headlines as I write. 

“Vegas strip club offers drive through peep shows” in response to COVID and “Man beaten to death by mob for having Corona Virus.” 

You might be on fire for Jesus.  But a quick skim of the daily headlines should be all one needs to discern the times and the message that the world needs.

Discernment drives action

I’ve heard people quote and seen people post Psalm 91 so many times in the past few weeks that everyone including unbelievers should have it memorized by now. Problem is – many receive it as a magic incantation that allows them to fearlessly continue with their lives as if nothing was happening.

A cursory word study quickly reveals that dwelling in secret place of Psalm 91:1 upon which one’s protection is contingent, refers to both the secret place Jesus talked about in Mat 6:6 . It also means a literal “shelter, a hiding place.” 

By the way, has anyone stopped to consider that COVID could peak during Passover?

I’m sure that’s just a coincidence.

If nothing else this situation is facing us with a very real question.  God or mammon?  

Many young people are assuming, they are invincible and choosing to party rather than comply with recommendations, warnings and ordinances.  We have young friends and relatives who seem utterly oblivious to the crisis at hand.

Spring Break 2020

The keys to surviving a crisis and thriving in the subsequent high lay in how we respond. There were people who jumped to their deaths from high-rises when the market crashed in 1929.  Those more prudent made fortunes. The most grievous error we can make is to fail to discern the time. We may assume a Fourth Turn crisis is the end and enter what AIM calls the “Q” (quit) zone. Or we could mistake the crisis for a First Turn high as so many spring breakers are doing now.

Good things come out of crisis. Rom 8:28

“Great peril provokes a societal consensus, an ethic of personal sacrifice, and strong institutional order.”   That means a return to First Turn values. People have been praying for and prophesying revival for decades.  Yet how soon we forget that revivals begin with radical repentance.  More often than not this repentance is preceded by an event that causes people to recognize their spiritual bankruptcy. An event like like the great San Francisco earthquake that preceded the Azuza Street revival in 1915.   Yes, Jesus healed and does heal people but His primary reason for coming was to be a propitiation for our sin. He came to rescue us from hell.  Miracles and healing look more spectacular to our disbelieving and entertainment hungry eyes. But they are secondary to dealing with our sin. John 1:22   As Ray Comfort says, “God comes to us with a subpoena in one hand and a pardon in the other.”  We love to tell people about the loving pardon while avoiding the subpoena all together. 

As the current COVID crisis grows, I have yet to hear anyone under the age of 85 preach a message of repentance.  There seems to be a correlation between this and the fact that those 80 and older were alive during the previous Fourth Turn.  Hope for a nation that has murdered over 61,000,000 babies’ since Roe v Wade, maligned the name of Jesus as a matter of public policy and rejected His substitutionary work on the cross isn’t going to be found in Psalm 91 without embracing 2 Chron 7:14 first.

“if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”

My oldest surviving uncle Lester will be 90 in June.  He built his own sugar house and makes his own maple syrup in Ashfield Massachusetts because he needs something to do when it’s too cold to work. 

His wife Nancy is a retired biologist with a passion for conservation.

The last time I visited, Aunt Nancy had just chased a mother bear and her cubs away from her beehives on foot. At dinner Lester and I spoke about the last Fourth Turn. Uncle Lester is a retired Navy Vet. His brother fought at Normandy.  He doesn’t speak a lot but when he does it behooves people to find the parable. Uncle Lester grew up poor during the Great Depression but says he didn’t know it. He never complains and talked a lot about the value and power of gratitude and community during hard times.  Elders in places like Ashfield Mass still work hard and have a lot of character. They are our national treasures.

I recently saw a meme directed at chronic COVID complainers.

If our culture persists in a collective belief that our individual rights reign supreme, that we are somehow owed something and that it’s the government’s job to provide it for free at the expense of other people simply because they have more; then I can assure you that the authoritarian outcome or worse mentioned by Straus and Howe is almost certain.

Instead I found an example of the requisite attitude for success, especially for Christians during a Fourth Turn in Acts 14. During the Apostle Paul’s 1st missionary journey he and Baranabas were kicked out of Antioch. So they traveled 85 miles to preach the Gospel in Iconium. Unbelieving Jews stirred up dissension and tried to beat and stone him.  So, Paul and Barnabas moved on to Lystra and Derbe where taught and people were healed. Everyone thought they were Zeus and Hermes and started to worship them.  No sooner had they put an end to that craziness then the previous Jews who had followed them from Iconium showed up.  This time they were successful in stoning Paul.  They dragged what they thought was his dead body outside the city gate and left him there. The disciples gathered around him probably in mourning. But before they could do anything Paul jumped up brushed himself off and went back into the city where;  

“Confirming the souls of the disciples, and exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God.” Acts 14:22

This May we will have lived in Honduras for three years. We’ve been through our share of crises and we stocked up on beans and rice a few weeks ago in anticipation of what is happening now. The other day we gave some away to a neighbor in need. I’ve been racking my brain as to how we are going to feed people when the food runs out. What will we do if someone gets sick?  How will we care for people?  Last night some girls from the tiny Catholic church down the road delivered dinner to our door.  Being a full-time missionary is teaching me just how unimportant I am.  

I don’t know what is happening or is going to happen. If you read my previous blogs, my conclusions regarding COVID remain the same. 

Believe what we want “We still don’t know jack.”  

What I do know from both God’s Word and my own experience is that

Jesus did not come to give us our best life now. He came to redeem and transform us.

Everything will be shaken. Only what can’t be shaken will remain. Heb 12:26-28

Who we are and what we do “will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work.” Only that which is of God will survive. 1Cor 3:12-15

While our eternal hope is definitely in Jesus. Our ability to remain in that hope will be determined by our individual and collective character.  Character is produced by perseverance. Tribulation is its catalyst. Rom 5:3-7

Please keep us in prayer. Apart from divine intervention we are in big trouble if COVID gets a hold of us.

If you are receiving this it’s because we love you.

En El Nombre De Jesus!